Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Review - Delhi 14 Historic Walks

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at

They say you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I guess you are allowed to fall in love with the cover. Like I did, as soon as I opened the package and looked at ‘Delhi – 14 Historic Walks’. It has a beautiful cover, with a picture of an ancient stone passageway, as if beckoning you to come inside.

I love taking random walks in the morning, by myself, taking in the surroundings. And hence the concept of Historic walks described in the book intrigued me so much. A historic walk is a walking tour of a historical place, either enjoyed alone or with friends or an organized heritage walk comprising a bunch of strangers.

The book describes 14 such walks in Delhi in great detail. Each place comes with a detailed site map directions, entry fee details, best time to visit and many other pieces of trivia that will help you visit. But this is not another boring tour-guide. You can enjoy reading this book even if you aren’t planning to visit. For the tone of the book is personal, giving it a feel of a story rather than a boring narrative.

Each historic place has a story to tell. Of how it came to be built, what ancient events took place there and the royalty connected to it. The author, Sapna Liddle tells these stories in a concise way, taking the readers along, as she walks by each place. Hence, this book is as entertaining as it is informative. It’s like getting little lessons in history, narrated as fables.

The photographs accompanying each description are beautiful and well chosen, to provide a complete experience of getting to know a place. The walks are arranged in a chronological order – oldest areas to newest. As we go from one to another we capture the systematic history of the development of the city and its architectural heritage.

Embarking upon each walk is like taking a little time travel into the past, and our first destination is the Qutub Minar complex. The narrative begins with a brief history of the rulers who built the various buildings in the complex, and the changes brought in by the change of regime. This is followed by a description of the architecture. The author writes about how ‘the Arch’ was introduced into Indian architecture after the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate.

For those planning to visit the places mentioned in the book, there’s also information on the amenities available at the sites and also trivia like the difficulty level of getting there, and also draws attention to details like the presence of thorny bushes and the required precautions to be taken.

Another site mentioned here is Tughlaqabad. I enjoyed reading this section because I have finally come to know the story behind the commonly used saying ‘Dilli duur ast’ or ‘Dilli abhi door hai’. The sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya was under a death-threat from emperor Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq who was out on a military campaign and sent word that the saint would be punished in his return to Delhi. When urged to leave the city, he said ‘Delhi is yet far’.

The book is thoroughly entertaining, and so full of detail that reading has been a real delight. Reading about Humayun’s tomb, the Red fort and Shahjahanabad brings back memories from the time I visited those fascinating places, steeped in history, and I’m sure that the readers who haven’t been there, would love to go take those ’14 Historic walks’ in Delhi.

And if you really wanna visit, Delhi isn’t all that far away.

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